Slowey strong in Twins’ loss to Boston

FORT MYERS (AP) Kevin Slowey threw three perfect innings for Minnesota. He was even happier to be pitching pain-free.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis drove in fifth-inning runs for the Boston Red Sox in a 6-4 victory over the Twins on Sunday, after Slowey’s strong start.

After missing the last half of last season with a right wrist injury that required surgery, Slowey is plenty excited to be throwing well with opening day less than a month away.

“It’s like being in Little League again,” Slowey said. “You just can’t wait to get out there.”

The Red Sox welcomed back captain Jason Varitek, but scratched starter Josh Beckett because of an illness he felt in the morning.

Minor league reliever Ryne Miller took his place and gave up three first-inning runs and two hits and two walks. The Red Sox used eight pitchers, but manager Terry Francona wasn’t concerned.

“He’ll pitch again on his normal day,” Francona said of Beckett. “It might cost him getting stretched out by one inning. He wasn’t feeling well. He’ll just stay right on his schedule. The biggest thing is for him to get himself better.”

Varitek, who had missed his team’s first 10 spring games while tending to a family matter, struck out and was hit by a pitch. He caught four innings.

“You’re getting your body acclimated to playing along with seeing a lot of new arms,” Varitek said. “That was a little bit different. You try to kind of be a little more aware.”

Varitek said his timing was off.

“Probably not very good right now,” Varitek said. “I’ve missed about 10 days of at-bats, and now I’m doing things for the first time. I’ll try to be back on track. It’s exciting to be back out there.”

Slowey struck out four, including David Ortiz, who is 1 for 19 this spring.

“I’ve still got some things to work on,” said Slowey, who has thrown nine scoreless innings in three starts with eight strikeouts and one walk. “But it was a good outing again. It felt good. It’s nice to be able to go out there and not have to worry about anything hurting.”

Slowey went 10-3 in 16 starts with a 4.86 ERA last season before being sidelined.

Manager Ron Gardenhire was impressed with Sunday’s outing.

“Slowey was great,” Gardenhire said. “He was throwing the ball fantastic. In control, the ball moved real well.”

Twins catcher Joe Mauer was held out for the second game with a sore right shoulder. He said the injury is not a concern and that he would’ve played if this were the regular season. Gardenhire also scratched first baseman Justin Morneau from the lineup with general soreness.

“We decided to shut them down for a couple of days,” Gardenhire said. “We’re not going to push it. It’s not going to happen.”

NOTES: Twins bench coach Steve Liddle has returned home from the hospital and has been cleared to return to the team. He had been hospitalized with chest pains on Friday. … Twins closer Joe Nathan, who might miss the season with an elbow injury, did not work out with the team Sunday because of an illness. … Red Sox IF Jed Lowrie is out with an illness. “He just wasn’t feeling real good,” Francona said. “So we had him checked out by the doctor. We just want to run him through some tests before we get him back on the field. We’ve been doing that the last couple of days.”

Updated March 14, 2010